It has been one year now since we first heard about a novel coronavirus in the news, and come March, the whole world has traveled down a very strange and unfamiliar road called ‘Pandemic’. I think we all hoped that this pandemic would be nothing more than a temporary bump in the road; we realize now that we are in this for the long haul. The road we were on has ended, and we must figure out what we will do next.. (see Post Quarantine Church p. 104)
We can either turn around and try to go back, or we can choose a different route. Some churches have put up a “road closed” sign and stopped everything, not knowing what to do next. Other churches have reluctantly and cautiously started down a new road, a road by the name of “New Normal”, and other churches yet have found the new route exciting and have already set their cruise control.
Where is Leland Community UMC in this equation? If we are tempted to blissfully wish for the “good old days,” whatever those might have been, longing for the way things were before we were stopped in our tracks by COVID-19, I have some news for us: that train, if you permit me to switch metaphors for a moment, has long since left the station! There is no such thing as going back to the way things were before March 17, 2020, when the State of Michigan began implementing social distancing and putting restrictions on who can meet where and when and how.
What we need are travel advisories, reliable information related to weather and road conditions, traffic patterns, and whatever else we might need to stay alert and prepared.
I found the following three travel advisories by church consultant Kay Kotan helpful as other church leaders and I do our best to discern the new road ahead for Leland Community UMC.
I have adapted and expanded on her article to reflect the context of our congregation.
I plan to share each of these travel advisories with you over the next three months. This month I write about considering new drivers. In March, I will write about trading in our old vehicle for another model, and in April, we will reconsider what to pack for the journey ahead. Let the journey begin!
Travel Advisory Number 1:
With changing road conditions, we may need to consider new drivers.
The structures that got us this far will not necessarily take us down this new road. As much of our congregational life has shifted online, the priorities are shifting to communications and technology. Consider, for example, where most of the Leland Community UMC people and those we want to reach with the Good News of Jesus Christ spend a major portion of their time these days. If you answered “in front of their screens,” you are correct. Most if not all our worship attendance and meetings have shifted to online, and much of our church expenses are now allocated to serving the church’s online presence, which will not go away, but be with us for the foreseeable future. Nationwide surveys and trends indicate that even when most of us have been vaccinated effectively against the coronavirus, many churchgoers will probably not return to in-house services but will continue to attend church virtually only. How will this affect how we do ministry beyond Sunday morning worship?
Leland Community UMC is in a new day and on a new road. We have never traveled this road before. As we get ready to remove the ‘road closed’ sign and venture forth, we must take the time to intentionally and strategically plan for this new adventure God is calling us to take. If we do not plan ahead now, we may find ourselves broken down on the side of a deserted road in the rain without an umbrella or a cell phone to call for help.
So what can we do? The most important thing YOU can do is to spend every day in prayer for your Pastor, your church leaders, and for each other. God already has been down this new road; let us seek God’s wisdom and guidance for what is yet to come.
On the road together with you,
Pastor Daniel Hofmann